NCSE Evolution Education Update for 2010/07/30
(by NCSE Deputy Director Glenn Branch)
Dear Friends of NCSE, Creationism is stirring in Louisiana. In the meantime, the History News Network commemorates the anniversary of the Scopes trial with a pair of essays, and the American Academy of Religion affirms that creation science or intelligent design are wrong for the science classroom.
CREATIONIST RUMBLINGS IN LOUISIANA Creationism is stirring in Louisiana, with a proposal to teach creationism in Livingston Parish and a call for creationists to scrutinize textbooks proposed for adoption by the state in the headlines. "The Livingston Parish School Board will begin exploring the possibility of incorporating the teaching of 'creationism' in the public school system's science classes," reported the Baton Rouge Advocate (July 24, 2010). The director of curriculum for the district reportedly told the board that, under the Louisiana Science Education Act, schools are allowed to present "critical thinking and creationism" in science classes. The response from the board was enthusiastic, with David Tate asking, "Why can't we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?" and Clint Mitchell adding, "Teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom." Keith Martin, the president of the board, agreed, "Maybe it's time that we look at this," and proposed the formation of a committee to study the possibility. Meanwhile, as the state is receiving input from citizens about science textbooks proposed for state adoption, creationist activists are urging their followers to object to the coverage of evolution. In a letter published in the Hammond Daily Star (July 26, 2010), Barbara Forrest debunks a series of misleading claims about the so-called Santorum Amendment, the state of public opinion about evolution, and the scientific accuracy of leading biology textbooks. After reviewing the all-too-successful recent history of antievolutionist efforts in Louisiana, she concludes, "Throughout it all, the citizens of Louisiana have remained almost completely silent. With a few commendable exceptions, the scientific community has done the same. Will they finally do something this time to stop the assault on science and public education? Louisiana, it will be remembered, was on the losing side of the last legal case involving the teaching of evolution in the public schools to be decided by the Supreme Court, Edwards v. Aguillard (1987). For the article in the Advocate, visit: http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/99153999.html For Forrest's letter, visit: http://www.hammondstar.com/articles/2010/07/26/opinion/letters/9055.txt For the decision in Edwards v. Aguillard, visit: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0482_0578_ZO.html And for NCSE's previous coverage of events in Louisiana, visit: http://ncse.com/news/louisiana REFLECTIONS ON THE SCOPES TRIAL FROM HNN The History News Network commemorated the eighty-fifth anniversary of the Scopes trial -- which ended on July 21, 1925 -- by commissioning two essays to mark the occasion. In his essay, David N. Reznick, a professor of biology at the University of California, Riverside, and author of The Origin Then and Now: An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species (Princeton University Press, 2009), reflects on the persistence of public controversy about evolution. He writes, "the theory of evolution has been a consistent target of religiously motivated propaganda campaigns. ... The arguments against evolution have changed little over the decades. ... All of these arguments have been refuted, but they persist." He concluded by encouraging his colleagues in the humanities to expand their efforts "dealing with the relationship between science and religion as a topic for the humanities classroom, rather than the science classroom." Responding to Reznick, Everett Hamner, a professor of English at Western Illinois University, enthusiastically endorsed the thought that "alongside scientific colleagues, we humanists can do a major service when we directly engage the relationship between science and religion." His suggestions for doing so: carefully distinguish between science and scientism; humanize Darwin and other scientists; question bifurcations of the religious and the secular; and cultivate more careful readings of scriptures, not their dismissal. His essay ended with a list of suggested readings, including NCSE's executive director Eugenie C. Scott's Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction (second edition: University of California Press, 2009). The History News Network is a project of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, featuring essays offering historical perspective on current events. For Reznick's essay, visit: http://www.hnn.us/articles/129214.html For Hamner's essay, visit: http://www.hnn.us/articles/129461.html AMERICAN ACADEMY OF RELIGION ON TEACHING CREATIONISM It is wrong to teach creation science or intelligent design in the science classroom, according to the American Academy of Religion. In its "Guidelines for Teaching About Religion in K-12 Public Schools in the United States," issued in April 2010, the Academy poses the question "Can creation science or intelligent design be taught in schools?" and answers (p. 21, emphasis in the original): *** Yes, but NOT in science classes. Creation science and intelligent design represent worldviews that fall outside of the realm of science that is defined as (and limited to) a method of inquiry based on gathering observable and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. Creation science, intelligent design, and other worldviews that focus on speculation regarding the origins of life represent another important and relevant form of human inquiry that is appropriately studied in literature or social sciences courses. Such study, however, MUST include a diversity of worldviews representing a variety of religious and philosophical perspectives and must avoid privileging one view as more legitimate than others. *** The American Academy of Religion is a learned society and professional association of teachers and research scholars, with over 10,000 members who teach in over 1000 colleges, universities, seminaries, and schools in North America and abroad. The Academy is dedicated to furthering knowledge of religion and religious institutions in all their forms and manifestations. For the AAR's Guidelines (PDF), visit: http://www.aarweb.org/Publications/Online_Publications/Curriculum_Guidelines/AARK-12CurriculumGuidelines.pdf Thanks for reading! And don't forget to visit NCSE's website -- http://ncse.com -- where you can always find the latest news on evolution education and threats to it. -- Sincerely, Glenn Branch Deputy Director National Center for Science Education, Inc. 420 40th Street, Suite 2 Oakland, CA 94609-2509 510-601-7203 x310 fax: 510-601-7204 800-290-6006 firstname.lastname@example.org http://ncse.com Subscribe to NCSE's free weekly e-newsletter: http://groups.google.com/group/ncse-news NCSE is on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter: http://www.facebook.com/evolution.ncse http://www.youtube.com/NatCen4ScienceEd http://twitter.com/ncse NCSE's work is supported by its members. Join today! http://ncse.com/membership